In a world where change, organizational transition, and sales force transformation seem to be the status quo, some things remain the same.
One constant is the resolute expectation that sales managers continually improve performance. No matter how successful a sales team or selling organization is at the moment, there remains a need for continuous improvements in productivity and profitability. For a number of sales managers today, this call to achieve even more has become a stain on an otherwise spotless management career. And, according to numerous sales managers, the question is simple: “How do we get even more sales than we are currently producing?”
As a training and education company that offers both advanced selling skills and management leadership education and coaching; and having educated and coached more than 40,000 professional sales leaders; we have come to what we believe are some very credible conclusions. Consistent improvement requires 5 key components for success.
Key components for continuous improvement success:
1. Understand that business improvement is never finished.
Leonardo Da Vinci said that “Art is never finished, it’s only abandoned.” It’s important for sales managers to recognize and communicate that improvement never stops. No matter how successful a sales professional, sales team or company becomes, the need for consistent improvement persists. The most successful sales managers don’t sell every change to employees. They build employee improvement by creating a work environment where improvement is expected and then simply lead their team in the current direction of perceived opportunity.
One of the fundamental sales manager and/or leadership mistakes we’ve witnessed time and again is the communication to the company or team that the current goal is the finish line. It’s great to get the team pumped up and engaged to achieve the current goal; but don’t give the impression that the achievement of the goal is the final resting place of success. It’s only a stepping stone on the way to the future, and with different information or strategy this goal may also change.
2. Define and communicate your current perception of success.
We all know that to be successful in business we must continually change as information, circumstances, and opportunities change. It is important for sales managers to consistently focus their employees on the current view of success. Don’t worry about what you cannot control, but focus instead on the things that you can do that will take you closer to your current goals. Tomorrow we may decide to proceed in a different direction, but based on our current vision of success, we can ask “what tasks should we perform today that will take us closer to our goals?” By helping employees understand and work toward the current goals, daily improvements lead to greater success however it is currently defined. Remember that like life, business is a journey and a process, not a series of destinations and plateaus.
3. The shortcut to improvement is the people.
The most successful managers know that true, sustainable business success can only be achieved by the development and improvement of their most valuable resource – their employees. Managers must focus their daily decision and work effort around developing their staff. Great managers know that it is much more difficult to achieve any objective when your staff is unprepared or lacks the ability or attitude to accomplish the goal. At Learning Outsource Group, we focus managers on what we believe is the number one management leadership priority: “Developing my staff to perform their job responsibilities better than I ever could,” or at least to the best of their capability. Managers can only do so much of the work themselves before they reach the inevitable point of diminishing returns. Great leaders diversify their abilities to and through their team or organization in order to best leverage the talent and ability of many to achieve greater goals. Only by developing our staff can we continue to make the necessary business improvements and continue to achieve greater goals.
4. Focus on daily behavior and activity.
Once the current goal has been defined and communicated, every employee and manager should focus their intentions and efforts toward the work that can be performed today which should move the team closer to the goal. As I’ve said many times in sales and sales management training programs, “Success comes most easily from doing the right things… every day!”
For selling professionals this means working from a daily plan that they have determined will take them closer to achieving their portion of the overall goal. This means that sales managers should lead and coach to those daily employee goals, activities, and behaviors. If managers wish to achieve and improve on current and future goals then it must be understood that weekly, monthly, or quarterly goals are more easily accomplished by helping sales staff stay focused on the daily behavior and activity that will eventually culminate in overall success. And if sales managers want salespeople to be consistently more successful and continually improve over time, then they must understand that improvement is incremental and that it is the daily implementation of the effective strategies and tasks, performed with the appropriate professional attitude, that delivers long term, ever increasing improvements.
5. Celebrate small successes!
A very common mistake by managers is allowing good selling efforts to go too long without review or recognition. Once a manager truly understands the improvement value of focusing on daily behavior and activity, then celebrating small successes becomes a natural opportunity for leveraging daily employee achievement into grander team and company goals.
Most selling days contain a lot of work with very little selling reward. And yet, selling professionals commit to the work and selling challenges anyway. Sales managers who monitor and coach daily sales activities and behaviors create many more opportunities for coaching and employee improvement motivation. We should never underestimate the power of recognition and appreciation when motivating others to step outside their own box for consistency and improvement. Celebrating the smaller daily activity and behavior successes of employees will create a working platform much more conducive to meeting the ever increasing expectations for improvement. Showing employees that you care about them and what they do every day is one way to positively encourage people to try and do even more.
Utilizing these 5 key components can empower sales managers to achieve continuous improvement with their team and throughout their career.